“The world isn’t against you, my dear—it just doesn’t care.” —Modern Life Is War
Some days are hard. Some days it feels like everything is against you.
First, you spilled coffee all over yourself, there’s no food in your fridge so you skipped breakfast, you’re having a bad hair day, got lipstick on your teeth, you’re already running late and got all the red lights, then your meeting is delayed, then your meeting is so rushed that they don’t even listen to your pitch. And THEN you leave your meeting to a note that says someone hit your car. SERIOUSLY UNIVERSE?!
You know, those days where it feels like EVERYTHING goes wrong and no one cares.
It’s okay. Take a deep breath. We’re in this together now.
I had one of those days today, but I calmed myself down before taking it out on my husband or letting it get to the point of a panic attack.
There’s a mindfulness coping strategy called “grounding” that’s supposed to connect you to the present moment. It’s usually used in post-traumatic stress disorder to cope with dissociation or flashbacks, but it’s also incredibly useful for dealing with any kind of stress, anxiety, or if you’re dealing with panic order.
And also, it’s REALLY easy.
I’m not a doctor, but I can teach you what I’ve learned.
To ground yourself, you use the five senses: sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight to immediately connect you with the present, not all the annoying shit that’s happening.
To connect with the here and now, do something that will bring all your attention to the present moment. The goal is to use grounding techniques to produce sensations that are difficult to ignore.
There are two ways you can do this. Option 1 you can do wherever you are (the 5-4-3-2-1 method), and the Option 2 involves an action.
Option 1: Acknowledge five things you see around you. Start with your hands. Look at your left hand, then your right hand. Then look at what your body is touching. Is it a chair? Is it the ground? Continue with three more things. For example, your clothes, your shoes, and your phone (duh).
Option 2: Look around the room. Identify all the colors and patterns you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.
Option 1: Acknowledge four things you can touch around you. List out the 4 things you can feel against your skin. What’s something you can touch? Grab the closest thing to you. Touch it. Feel its textures. Is it soft or hard? Does it have bumps or is it smooth? Is it small or big?
Option 2: Splash some water on your face. Notice how it feels. Notice how the towel feels as you dry. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the feeling of water or the fabric, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.
Option 1: Stop and listen. List three things you can hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts. Notice sounds you can hear closest to you. Is there music on? Are there people talking? Are there cars outside? Can you can hear a clock? Are there any dogs?
Option 2: Turn on some music or a podcast. Sounds are really hard to ignore and will divert your attention to what music or voices you’re hearing.
Option 1: Notice any smells around you. Do you smell?
Seriously, it’s okay to check your pits. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Did you kinda laugh or think that was funny? Good, it’s working.
Option 2: Light a candle. Sniff peppermint (or coffee, or an essential oil, or literally anything that has an aroma, like wine). When you smell something strong, it brings your brain’s attention to now.
Option 1: One thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like? Lunch? Coffee? Nothing? Did you brush your teeth this morning? It’s okay if you didn’t, there’s always tonight.
Option 2: Gum. No gum on hand? Take a sip of coffee. Bite into a lemon or lime. The strong sensation when you take a bite or a drink or something can force you to stay in the present moment.
Now take another deep breath and add this to your “Mental Health Pinterest Board”. Working on this technique (like all practices, whether it’s the gym, learning a new language, or mental health) take time and dedication. It does get easier over time but you need to keep doing it. Eventually, it will get easier and come as second nature to you.
Have you tried this before? Have you heard of it? Do you use other techniques when you’re trying not to lose your shit? Let me know in the comments.